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FAA Warned of bin Laden in 1998 FAA Warned of bin Laden in 1998
Mon May 27,10:26 AM ET

By JONATHAN D. SALANT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) told airlines more than three years ago to be on a "high degree of alertness" against possible hijackings by followers of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), a government source said Sunday.

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The FAA cited statements made by bin Laden following U.S. attacks on suspected al-Qaida facilities in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Sudan in August 1998, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Like the circulars issued in 2001 before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the October 1998 circulars did not contain any specific credible threats and did not order the airlines to increase security.

The FAA did not receive any additional information about possible threats and the 1998 advisories expired in January 1999, the source said.

"It was intended to be a short-term thing," the source said.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the FAA issued 15 advisories to airlines and airports from January 2001 to August 2001.

One of the 2001 circulars, obtained by the AP, warned airlines on April 18 that Middle Eastern terrorists could try to hijack or blow up a U.S. plane and told carriers to "demonstrate a high degree of alertness."

The 2001 warning noted that four al-Qaida members were on trial in New York, accused of being involved in the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

The source, confirming a report in The Boston Globe, noted that Islamic terrorists had threatened to hijack U.S. airplanes in 1998.

"While this threat remains unsubstantiated, there is information from one of the incarcerated suspects in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi that he received aircraft hijack training," the Globe quoted the October 1998 advisory as saying. "The arrest and pending extradition of bin Laden cadre raises the possibility of a U.S. airliner being hijacked in an effort to demand the release of incarcerated members."

Two other information circulars warning of terrorism were issued in December 1998, the source said. One warned that terrorists may try to hijack a plane at an airport in the Eastern United States. The other again cited bin Laden's threats after the U.S. attacks.

___

On the Net:

Federal Aviation Administration: http://www.faa.gov

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